3 Old School Rules That Can Ruin Your Plans To Remain Poor And Miserable.

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Monday, 3:33pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
One way or another, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha gitcha gitcha…” (Blondie)


Okay, quick post today… aimed at ruining your life by prying open the profit floodgates with a few simple rules even grizzled old veterans seldom learn.

We’ll discuss later how to deal with all the extra moolah (so you can salvage an excellent life once the realities of being richer sink in).

(Tee hee.)

First, let’s make sure you understand these 3 basic (and mostly ignored or botched) rules from our Operation MoneySuck manual.

Ready? Okay, release the life-changing stuff:

Op$uck Rule #1: Get an assistant.

Hey, I totally understand the “go it alone” mindset of the average entrepreneur. I was a one-man-band for the first 5 years of my career — if you got a letter or phone call from my office (in my collapsing beach house in Hermosa), it was from me.

However, once I decided to start teaching and offering courses and coaching, I took to heart the Prime Operation MoneySuck Directive: “If you’re the dude responsible for bringing in the big bucks, then that’s your #1 job. And your #2 job, and #3 job, etc. Hire out or delegate everything else.

I brought on a part-time assistant for 10 hours a week, who worked out of her house (so we communicated mostly by email, phone and only occasional visits). She was smart, had biz experience, and was thrilled to have a part-time gig with totally flexible hours, with a generous and savvy boss (me) so she could work from home and raise her kid.

When I realized those 10 hours were INSTANTLY gobbled up by random stuff like scheduling consultations, dealing with refunds and printers and non-essential client requests…

… it became obvious that I’d been STEALING 10 hours of energy/time/thinking/effort from my biz. Which I could have been force-feeding back into the money-making part of that same biz.

Total WTF moment.

I immediately doubled Diane’s hours, and the ROI shot up again

There are OODLES of folks out there who are qualified for full-time work (cuz they’re awesome) but prefer flexible part-time work (especially if it involves some problem solving challenges and opportunities to engage their brain and experience). Not hard to find, either. Craig’s List, referrals from friends, local job boards.

The point is: Stop being stubbornly independent. One part-time assistant will change your life, immediately and for the better.

Op$uck Rule#2: Aim for a refund rate between 7%-15%.

This seems counter-intuitive. Most rookie biz owners want a zero percent refund rate, and will even brag about having one. (And it’s so embarrassing when they brag around their more experienced colleagues.)

For veteran (usually wealthy) entrepreneurs, though, getting less than a healthy 10% or so in refunds just means you’re not marketing hard enough.

Look — in any given population (including the folks in your niche) up to 20% will be batshit crazy, unclear on how capitalism works, or sociopaths. That’s just a given.

So if you’re carefully navigating around this chunk of whacko’s in your niche, then guess what?

You’re actually working BACKWARDS. You’re wasting time chasing the wrong goal.

What the Big Boys usually do is to market aggressively enough to get that sweet spot of 7-15% refunds. That means they’re hitting the ENTIRE market…

and for every nutball refund junkie they net, they’re going to find MULTIPLE new good customers who may become lifelong fans. 

In other words, the savvier marketers play for the long haul. More action means more good AND more bad initial customers coming through the front door…

… and you have your assistant deal with the dead weight, while you concentrate on doing biz with the legitimate new customers.

Which leads us to…

Op$uck Rule #3: Give your assistant a clear, written protocol of how to handle mad, bad and sad customers.

So she can confidently deal with the usual suspects without involving you.

Yes, you will occasionally still have to get involved when a customer goes off the rails. You may have to give a lawyer a call, and spend some precious time dealing with the shit sandwich just served to your biz.

But the other 99% of complaints, refunds, problems and crazy talk never gets past your assistant’s desk. Give her total freedom to come to you with anything she’s not totally confident about dealing with, of course…

… but I’ll tell you, after a very short time she’ll be an expert on the personalities of your market. And she’ll get better than you at giving every problem a happy ending. (Side note: After a few months, ask her to write out her SOP — standard operating procedure — for most tasks. This will become a valuable document, especially if you need to replace your assistant without notice.)

Diane has been with me for 12 years. Part time the entire time. She’s the most amazing, efficient and effective customer service “face” of the biz possible. Clients adore her, and she takes care of them.

She’s still the most precious resource I have in the biz, freeing me up to do the dirty work of making moolah.

Hiring her was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire career. Seriously.

Bonus Rule: If you can, NEVER see any complaints or refund rants that come by mail, email, voice mail, or whatever. Have your assistant intercept these, and unless it’s absolutely necessary for you to see what’s going on, HIDE them from you.

It’s human nature to ignore the thousand raving fans giving you thumbs up on a project, and devote days to writing your reply to the troll who insults you, or tries to con the system to get a refund he doesn’t deserve, or is just an awful person.

The operative phrase to remember is: “Never wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, and the pig likes it.

Operation MoneySuck is all about you spending the best hours of your day on bringing home the bacon…

… not wrestling with it.

Enjoy the last of your summer.

Stay frosty,


P.S.  Just lettin’ you know…

The very elite mastermind group I’ve been hosting the past few years has a couple of open slots.

It’s clearly the most unique mastermind around, run Hot Seat-style and focused on solving specific problems for each member (not just ruminating about the philosophies of biz). Results oriented, hard-core, more fun than entrepreneurs should be allowed to have.

Small hint about the quality of the meetings: Past guest experts I had join us include Joe Sugarman, Jay Abraham, Rich Schefren, Dean Jackson, Joe Polish, the Halbert boys, and most of the best copywriters on the planet.

Anyway, there’s a very strict vetting process (though we’ve accepted semi-rookies as well as grizzled veterans as members because we look for smarts, worldly experience and overall mojo as the key to a good member) which you should look into regardless of where you’re at right now.

If you have a career or run a biz, and you’re ready to get some expert help watching your back while you climb to the next level… then check this out now:

Carlton’s awesome mastermind.


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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • John I’m so relieved to see that I’m not alone in focusing on the few naysayers at the expense of the fans that far outnumber them. I thought I’d outgrow it, but your post proves that some things are not worth fighting and are better off managed so you don’t have to deal with them.

    When I was in college, I was a street performer in NYC during my summers off. As a “Human Jukebox”, I made about 200 bucks a day standing in cardboard box and playing music. That’s a lot of quarters, translating into a lot of thumbs up. But a couple of times a week there would be one troll or another who’d shout at me in passing over the smiling crowd, something like: “Hey stupid, why don’t you go get a REAL job?!” I’d be miserable all day and most of the night after I got home, and no amount of my mother reminding me about all those quarters helped.

    If I haven’t fixed it in 30 years, you’re right — I’d better have my VA handle the refund requests.

    • John Carlton says:

      Wow — in all my years of observing and studying street performers, I’ve yet to see a human jukebox. Did you have a boombox or something? Sounds delightful and ingenious. And I used to work really freakin’ hard for $200, so I’m in awe, too. You must have inherited some entrepreneurial blood from somewhere in the family tree…

      Thanks for the note. Now stop fussing with non-essential biz stuff…

  • John Carlton you mad, you bad & I’m glad.

  • John Lloyd says:

    Hi John

    This post has come at a most timely point,I have a property business that has been suffering of late because of too many other biz and life commitments, its not that I have taken my eye off the ball, its just that I need an extra set of eyes and hands.

    And I’m not complaining, because too much business to take care of is a much better problem than not enough business to be able to pay the bills.

    Never the less I am definitely at the point you made:

    “If you’re the dude responsible for bringing in the big bucks, then that’s your #1 job. And your #2 job, and #3 job, etc. Hire out or delegate everything else.”

    I have been skeptical in the past, probably a bit of control freakery going on, but I have been coming to terms with it, because there just aint enough hours in the day, and you are damn right, it is my responsibility to bring in the dough.

    I was already in the process of hiring, in fact I have number of interviews lined up this week, this post just came along, as these things tend to, and nailed it home to me.

    Great post as always, I was waiting for your paperback to come out, I bought it last week, it should arrive here in Liverpool UK, the first week in September.

    Cheers John, can’t wait ti read it.


  • Hey John, sick blog post, loved it.

    Completely agree with everything you’re saying

    Also, I applied for your private mastermind like a week ago but never heard back from your staff.


  • JC-

    I love this shit. Learning the Operation Money$uck mindset from you a few years ago is one of the more powerful things I’ve ever done.

    These days whenever I find myself procrastinating or tangled in what Brain calls “lesser mortal shit”, I ask myself this same question – “Is what you’re doing right now putting money in the bank?” If the answer is no (and if I have to ask myself, the answer is almost always no), I drop everything and calmly go back to what I should be doing – ripping money out of wallets, wholesale.

    Amazingly powerful way to look at things.


    • John Carlton says:

      The “lesser mortals” line was a fave of Gary Halbert when he lectured about dealing with details (which he sucked at). But, yeah, the Op$uck mindset is a game changer for any entrepreneur aiming to kick it up a notch…

  • Hey John –

    Point #2 Refund rate is gold. People need to read that 4 or 5 times till it sinks in…

    I live and operate by that principle. A 0% refund rate is embarrassing not something to brag about.

    It means you’ll be out of business soon rather than later.

    Even more so today.

    Golden post as usual Mr. Carlton 😉

    – A

  • dANNY8BALL says:

    Hey Johnny,

    Great advice. I feel crushed when someone doesn’t like my work, and dealing with it directly can be somewhat ego bruising for sure. I do not have an assistant (yet!). What do you think of using someone you find on e-lance, to keep the costs low, are there e-lancers that could be trusted with some of the “daily mundane”?

    One things for sure, in this YELP, Google plus, Facebook world of reviews, you can’t leave an unhappy customer out in the cold anymore. They’ll bite you back!

    • John Carlton says:

      You may to kiss a few (or a lot) of frogs before you find the right person. Just a fact of life. Write out 2 lists: What you want in an ass’t…

      … And what you don’t want.

      I REALLY lucked out finding Diane, obviously long before Elaine even existed. She works from home. But is local — virtual ass’ts have a place, but I wanted mail collection and some other “gotta be here” things, for example.

      Rule #1 for all entrepreneurs: Figure it out. The idea is the breakthrough, but the actual implementation is what makes the idea work.

      Good luck.

  • John, more great advice and guidance with a number of great lines chucked in for good measure. I kind of wish you posted more often but you know what – too much information would ruin us all.

    On the second read of your book, looks like it will get a third. Makes me laugh out loud a lot.

    Money Suck is something that often creeps up on you unless you keep an eye on it but no one explains it like you. Fanx.

    I keep on telling myself about being the one eyed man in the land of blind and keep coming up against those who think they can see – they suck money like you can’t believe if you let them. Wrestling Pigs.. perfect.

    Human Jukebox – that seems a bit trippy from Lisa but hey ‘horses for courses eh’.

    Carry on keeping on for all of our sanity.


  • Love this post and I love the pig quote! I will do my best to put all the recommendations into action. Thanks again John!

  • Alicia says:

    Long live Diane! I’m my dads P/T office gal and with raising a toddler F/T and trying to make it as a freelancer F/T I’ve been thinking of looking for a new (and much more organized & QBooks savvy) assistant for him. I need all of the time I can get right now and I dread going to his office bc I have bigger dreams of making it as a copywriter.

    Thanks for the reminder about your mastermind… maybe one of these days I can get in, but right now the 10k is totally not doable… even if I do make it back. What’s going on with the Marketing Rebel’s insider group? Is that going to open up?

    Warmly, Alicia

  • Al Yarbrough says:

    You are so in my head!

    I “ranted” about how right on your post is to my assistant for over 1/2 hour as I went over it with her. Point after point you expressed, quite poignantly, by the way, what I have talked to her about through the years.

    GREAT article!

  • Alan says:

    Good shit John, straight from the best school in the world!

    And as for those nattering nabobs of negativity, as a wise man once said: “If you’re not pissing people off, you’re not trying hard enough!” Thanks for the reminder.

  • Robert says:

    Assistant really is the one, though what is your advice on etiquette with the assistant, what about if celebration with the assistant leaves you in a state of – “oh no, ‘I…we shouldn’t have done that” is it best advised to get a virtual assistant? lol

  • John.
    The timing for this blog discussion was spot on. I too have been struggling with the minutia of being a sole owner trying to do it all. I recently started keeping an hour by hour log of tasks I do every day. At the end of the week when I reviewed and collated the hours per task, I was almost sick to discover that such B.S. is consuming valuable ‘money makin’ time. You sure got my attention.
    Thank you for hitting me with the reality stick.

  • Adam says:

    Awesome post John! So true!

  • Dunno, John..

    I ‘partially’ relate to what you say here, but not entirely.
    Maybe because I’m not really ready to share my wisdom and experience through large scale coaching yet?.. (yeah, I know I should)

    However, in what I do (email marketing) I would have unsubscribes as the equivalent of refunders, maybe… at a similar scale/magnitude you’re describing (although still lower).
    Of course, I also have real refunders for what I’m selling, but it is very far from the numbers you describe.

    I’ll give it a thought; it is at least intriguing, if nothing else… a totally different take on what I would’ve thought.

    Until now, to be honest, I was thinking a high refund rate is just a mismatch between product quality and salesletter copy.
    A very good copywriter would make more than the real target people buy the thing in the first place, but once they get to get it, it fails to be exactly what they expected…

    Once again, I don’t know if that’s the case with coaching. So far, I took very few people to teach them, I’d rather filter them out than in, so maybe that is why I didn’t experience such refunds…

    Food for thought though… “What IF?..”

    Steve ✉ Master eMailSmith ✉ Lorenzo
    Chief Editor # eMail Tips Daily Newsletter

  • Jeff says:

    Hey John, I wish I had seen this a few years ago when I was a wee entrepreneur with a language school in Brazil. I had serious problems trusting secretaries to handle the problems and would always get involved. I wanted to save as much money as possible. It got to the point where I started having daily problems with students which later lead to more problems with teachers which lead to not taking care of the business, etc.

    I’ll tell you what, those pigs really do like wrestling and if you keep at it YOU become the bacon.

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Thanks for that tip about test-run a va at 10hrs/week; I hadn’t thought of that. I’d think all or nothing and risk, so I still do 12-18 hour days myself w/o support staff this last 15 yrs online. Biz has been growing surprisingly well this last year, and I’m beyond swamped; thanks for the nudge to add some help. Back when I was a small biz consultant I’d tell clients to not suffer the “do it all yourself” syndrome and yet I haven’t practiced what I preached. Useful tip, thx re roi/getting help.

    Good point on refunds, I cheerfully tell the world, truthfully, that I have less than a 1.8% lifetime refund/cb rate; you’re likely right though about I’m not mass market enough and should be, to at least get a lot more leads and minimum 7% refund rate, w/more action.

    Tip on SOPs: use flowcharts. Basic simple 7-10 step diagram with major things to do; much easier to understand than tomes of text sops.

    Spot on re pig-wrestling tip; I keep very strict boundaries and blacklist troublesome folks, which are thankfully rare.. time and peace of mind are critical, so isolating/”bouncing” em like a nightclub owner would, helps.

    I was re-reading your book again on kindle this past week, thanks — having your voice in the back of my mind as I run my business has been key to sales success this last 10+ years. wtf time goes by so fast. What a ride.

    Having your training this past decade, “riding shotgun” has helped me mow down the competition and build the biz with shockingly effective success; glad I went deep w/your training years ago, I owe you (fyi i’ll speak at one of your sd shindigs if you ever want, you’re on the exceptionally short list of 4-5 people I’d actually get on a plane to go see.).

    to insane profits,


  • Ben says:

    #2 is great. Low refund rates are commonly bragged about to attract affiliates… and it worked on me so I’ll be on the lookout for that one…

    P.S. my soon-to-be-dog-eared copy of your book arrived at my (Belgian) door front yesterday morning!

  • barry shah says:

    About refund rates. In this always on social media era high refund rates could provide a lot of easily found negative reviews. The way people buy has changed. A great product that delivers on the promise made in the copy is one of the best ways to grow a business. Push that refund rate higher and you may well pay the price later.

    • John Carlton says:

      Perhaps. A good entrepreneur is open-minded, not frozen in ideology. When the facts change, he changes.

      So when technology clearly changes the rules, it’s time to adjust. In my 30-year career, I’ve gone from typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter, through every stage of PC (5-1/4 floppies, no hard drives, dot matrix printers, no Internet), right along with every new opportunity. The rise of infomercials on TV, the changing face of radio (with Sirius), the monopolization of newspapers (and now their demise), the changes in direct mail, and so on. I had one of the very first marketing weblogs (blogs to you), one of the first “guru” websites, did one of the first teleseminars, had one of the first podcasts on iTunes, etc.

      Not because I’m a stud or anything. I’m just wired into a network of savvy folks, and I pay attention.

      But here’s the kicker: You should never ASSUME anything.

      You don’t know how social media really affects the mojo of an average entrepreneur’s gig. For a huge company like MacDonald’s, yes, viral stories about worms in the burgers launched by trolls can hurt sales. For brick and mortar stores, bad reviews on Yelp can sink you.

      But even a 15% refund rate doesn’t have to mean bad things. You can structure the offer so that it’s clear you’re shouldering the risk, and you’re inviting folks to try it out… and you’ll happily refund if they aren’t convinced they need or can use the product.

      It is NOT a given that a refund is an angry ex-customer.

      Fulfilling on the promise of your copy can include a 15% refund rate… because your customers feel safe and confident in ordering, knowing you will handle their request cleanly and with a smile.

      For every customer who says “Well, I tried it, and while it’s a great product, it’s not for me. Thanks for letting me see for myself”, with the more aggressive marketing you’re doing, you’ll see a multiple of new customers who keep the product. Happily.

      It’s a numbers game.

      Very Important: Refunds do NOT have to equal unhappy customers.

      Keep that in mind.

      Oh, and the way people buy hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. The way they find and deal with the product morphs, sure… but the decision-making in the brain is the same as it was thousands of years ago. Don’t confuse technology with evolution…

      Thanks for the note, Barry. Appreciate you broaching this subject…

  • Excellent Mr. C. These tips are pure gold. I recently hired a programmer in London (I’m in Tennessee) to handle some backend programming for me on my guitar training site and it has been priceless! It frees me up to create more training modules for my 18,000+ students and that leads to more good things if you know what I mean. 😉

    Great post!


    PS… Get your guitar and call me John. Somebody in your family must surely want to jam!

  • Ryan McGrath says:

    Interesting comments about refund rates. You mention this in your book too.

    I had a linkedin in chat with Drayton Bird on this topic, which you can see here:


    Quoting Drayton Bird in the link above:

    “When I was in the mail order business (I guess I still am in a way as I run a thing called AskDrayton) if you got 10% returned you knew you had a s**t product. I think about 3% was the norm.”

    Based on working for a large mailer, I’m seeing more of what you describe, John. But I also know Drayton Bird is a living legend…

    So I’m curious what you would say back to the legendary Mr. Bird on this topic of “good” refund rates?

    • John Carlton says:

      I know Drayton, like and respect him, and he has earned his reputation as a legend.

      That said, he and I come from different parts of the direct response world. I was “in” that world, full of corporate clients, huge third-class mailings, massive campaigns, all of it… and corporate creatures look at risk differently than the entrepreneurial world I inhabited for most of my career.

      I was rising star in that corporate world — the darling of the ad agencies, the next hot “A List” write to work with the largest mailers in the world — when Halbert beckoned, asking me to turn my back on that world and come with him on an unknown adventure into the land of entrepreneurs. I didn’t hesitate a second in accepting. Adventure and challenge versus dull “by the numbers” corporate writing?

      No contest.

      In the entrepreneurial world, you do NOT use joints like Coca Cola or MacDonald’s as role models. Totally different beasts.

      And that’s where our more aggressive attitude toward marketing is different. As I said elsewhere in this thread, you do NOT have to enrage your audience to get that higher refund rate — you can simply explain your position as the main risk-taker in the transaction, freeing up more of the audience to decide “yeah, sure, on that kind of easy no-risk refund basis, I’ll give it a try”. And for every hundred who then order (when they wouldn’t have ordered had the offer been one iota less risk-free), 85 will keep the product and 15 will ask for that refund.

      To a corporate beast, that 15% refund rate will freak him out.

      To an entrepreneur, the extra 85 sales is a happy, happy day.

      And, again, if you structured the refund process so it’s easy and not a bother, then you can still remain friends with the 15 who get their money back.

      Make sense?

      It’s a numbers game.

  • adam libman says:


    I got to this site from Perry’s 80/20 membership site.

    I really enjoyed your point for aiming for refunds. It makes sense when you think about. I never had before this moment.

    Also really like the idea of not seeing the bad nasty words.

    I’m always amazed how much energy loser clients suck.

    Gotta protect yourself!


  • Kyle Taylor says:

    I don’t know that most small businesses could afford a full or part time assistant, but definitely outsourcing some of what can reasonably be outsourced (the monotonous work especially) is a good strategy. Working smarter rather than harder is the name of the game – if you’re spending all day trying to follow people on social media in the hopes that they like you for example rather than trying to use one of the companies listed at http://www.buyfacebooklikesreviews.com you’re wasting your time. I agree with you about having a reasonable refund rate rather than striving for zero %. You should try and eliminate as many unhappy people as you can by providing great service but there are some people who are just perpetually miserable who can never be satisfied – best to move on from them and wish them the best with somebody else.

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